Week 6 Blog Assignment

In Contempt, Godard’s unique use of cinematography toys with and maybe even pokes fun at the action of filmmaking and many of its aspects.

This is most evident in the first scene when Camille questions Paul as to whether he loves every bit of her. Godard’s experimenting with the scene’s tonality—twice changing the tone of color of the scene, from red, to light, to dark—can surely be seen as a metaphor of the couple’s tumultuous relationship and its inevitable course. But what may not seem evident at first is the idea that Godard is playing with his cinematographical choices here, seeing what effect painting the scene red, light or dark can have on the viewer, while also possibly poking fun and/or paying homage to these same stylistic choices made by other filmmakers. He is blatantly establishing that what we are watching is filmmaking, which highlights how any choice of his can have a unique effect on us.

Other unique uses of cinematography employed in Contempt that play with formal expectations can be seen in the scenario when Paul and Camille converse and argue in their apartment. Effective use of perspective and wide-angle focal length place Paul and Camille in different places in each shot, each character switching back and forth from dominance to submissiveness as it pertains to their ongoing dialogue. When Paul is in a shaky emotional state at one point in their conversation, his legs (while he is sitting on the toilet) seem many yards away, when in reality he is only a few feet away. This is a shrewd way of displaying his emotional dejection.

Godard’s style in Contempt is interesting in that one feels that almost every filmmaking choice he made was intentional—when watching such a unique piece, one feels that each decision demands (and has) an explanation.

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3 thoughts on “Week 6 Blog Assignment

  1. “He is blatantly establishing that what we are watching is filmmaking, which highlights how any choice of his can have a unique effect on us.”

    This comment really resonated with me! Shifts of power are really prevalent in this film and are well represented cinematographically. From Camille’s shadow covering Paul’s face in the opening scene, to her boxed in framing as Paul stood on the roof above when she kisses the producer, the person with the upper hand at the beginning is not the same as the middle and the end. It is interesting to consider that Godard is reminding the audience of his power as a filmmaker to affect how we feel about a scene, character or film as a whole. Even if we don’t recognize it, a director’s choices in things as subtle as the framing of a character can alter how we identify with or against a character. Filmmakers have an immense influence on the audiences they present their work to and as this film reminds us, it is not always through words that they get their message across

  2. I definitely agree that on top of all of the other intentions Godard has in creating the certain cinematic effects that he does, he also intends to simply show the significance of the form of the cinematography itself, emphasizing the power of stylized elements such as the avante-garde, unprecedented changing of the filters. I also agree with the commenter above me; filmmakers have a great influence on their audiences, and it’s no doubt that Godard recognized this and used it to his greatest benefit. I also find that the toilet scene embodies the state of dejection Paul is experiencing, as the angle through which the scene is shown simply amplifies the inglorious nature of his situation, his legs sticking out by the corner of the doorframe, all reflecting his ignorance and detachment concerning the reality of his deteriorating love with Camille. I find it paramount to note that every detail Godard includes does great justice to the entirety, the whole of the film, in depicting the poetically tragic – and allegorical – fall of two lovers.

  3. It is so blatantly film making, I agree, that I almost want to call it tongue-in-cheek, if not for the fact that the filming and writing of this movie coincides with his divorce from his estranged wife. Alas.

    Reading over your first paragraph, gave me an idea. I almost want to say that red is the colour that symbolises Paul and Camille’s love/relationship. It appears frequently throughout the film, and typically represents both passion, love, and anger, all of which are encompassed in the progression of the film. And the ending, wherein Jeremy and Camille crash in his red coupe, is a final ironic twist, which given the fact Goddard so surprisingly ended the film, is quite in the realm of possibility.

    Other than that, I agree; The piece is a director’s film, everything is done intentionally, and every shot, the way it is shot, is vitally important.

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